Forslund E, Sohlberg E, Enqvist M, Olofsson PE, Malmberg KJ, Önfelt B
J. Immunol. 195 (7) 3374-3381 [2015-10-01; online 2015-08-28]
NK cells are functionally educated by self-MHC specific receptors, including the inhibitory killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIRs) and the lectin-like CD94/NKG2A heterodimer. Little is known about how NK cell education influences qualitative aspects of cytotoxicity such as migration behavior and efficacy of activation and killing at the single-cell level. In this study, we have compared the behavior of FACS-sorted CD56(dim)CD57(-)KIR(-)NKG2A(+) (NKG2A(+)) and CD56(dim)CD57(-)KIR(-)NKG2A(-) (lacking inhibitory receptors; IR(-)) human NK cells by quantifying migration, cytotoxicity, and contact dynamics using microchip-based live cell imaging. NKG2A(+) NK cells displayed a more dynamic migration behavior and made more contacts with target cells than IR(-) NK cells. NKG2A(+) NK cells also more frequently killed the target cells once a conjugate had been formed. NK cells with serial killing capacity were primarily found among NKG2A(+) NK cells. Conjugates involving IR(-) NK cells were generally more short-lived and IR(-) NK cells did not become activated to the same extent as NKG2A(+) NK cells when in contact with target cells, as evident by their reduced spreading response. In contrast, NKG2A(+) and IR(-) NK cells showed similar dynamics in terms of duration of conjugation periods and NK cell spreading response in conjugates that led to killing. Taken together, these observations suggest that the high killing capacity of NKG2A(+) NK cells is linked to processes regulating events in the recognition phase of NK-target cell contact rather than events after cytotoxicity has been triggered.